I have watched with concern the plans to remove the historic Frank J. Wood Bridge over the Androscoggin between Brunswick and Topsham. Although not currently an engineer, I have degrees in Civil and Structural Engineering from the University of Maine and MIT and was in the Army Corps of Engineers. I am in a group fighting the removal of this bridge in the courts and I want the citizens of Brunswick and Topsham to realize that what the Maine Department of Transportation has done is not in their best interest and is neither, in my opinion, fair or honest.

They have not given citizens with opposing opinions a fair chance to be heard. MeDOT has not fairly estimated the cost of a new bridge. They have dismissed the historical significance of the bridge and the surrounding structures that may be adversely affected by a new bridge. The MeDOT has not done an adequate job of assessing the environmental impact of building a new bridge vs. the minimal impact of repairing the existing bridge.

The issue that will most certainly affect your taxes is their approach to estimating the cost of building the new bridge.

They initially estimated that the cost of the new bridge would be $13 million but increased this to $21.8 million when their figures were questioned. Please note that this figure may not include the cost of the access roads on either side or the cost of the land which may need to be acquired.

Even this new number of $21.8 million for the bridge is probably a serious underestimation if you look at the recent projected costs for three other bridges in Maine. For the proposed Taconic Bridge in Waterville, they estimate it will cost $40,510,000 which is $980 per square foot, a new bridge in Farmington Falls is going to cost $7,542,000 at a cost of $1,117 per square foot and the new Madawaska International Bridge at $86,532,251 is $1032 per square foot.

The initial MeDOT estimate for the cost of the bridge to replace the Frank J. Wood bridge was $371 per square foot. Now I ask you, does that make sense? If one uses a cost of $1,000 per square foot — a price between these other two estimates, and probably a low estimate — a new replacement bridge in Brunswick would cost $35,070,000. This is way above the estimate of $16 million to rehabilitate the existing bridge.

I also believe costs for maintenance of the rehabilitated historic bridge are greatly inflated. All this to justify replacement of this iconic structure.

Leaving money and your taxes aside, it is important to understand that the bridge is a well-built historic structure. It is a Warren-type through truss bridge built in 1932 and was used for passenger rail service and for heavy self-propelled coal cars used to transport coal from the Port of Bath to Bates College.

For these reasons the bridge was built wide, tall and heavy and still meets current standards as to width and height. It has lasted 89 years even with poor maintenance, not having been painted since the 1980s.

The bridge is considered historic and has technological significance per the Historic Bridge Foundation and is among the longer of Maine’s remaining metal truss bridges. It is an icon that has been used as the cover photo of our local phone book, a mural at the Bangor Saving Bank, and an image in the Bowdoin College Handbook as well as many photo books picturing Maine’s beauty.

The Maine Division of the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has determined it is eligible for the National Register of Historic Places has determined its demolition will adversely affect the adjacent National Registry-eligible Cabot Mill, National Registry-eligible Brunswick and Topsham Industrial Historical Districts and the National Registry-listed Pejepscot Paper Company.

The other serious area of concern is the environmental effects of removing this historic functional bridge and replacing it with an expensive new concrete one. It has been recognized in recent years that the production of concrete and steel result in massive amounts of greenhouse gases. Obviously, large amounts of concrete and steel will be required for the new bridge.

Please consider what will happen to your taxes, the history and beauty of the area and the environment. Consider contacting Reps. Pingree and Golden, Sens. King and Collins as well as Gov. Janet Mills and other officials.

Tell them what a bad idea the proposed new bridge is, that the cost of a new bridge would exceed the cost of rehabilitation of the Frank J. Wood Bridge, that new construction will destroy the present historic, environment, that MeDOT has failed to follow the required National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, and that the environmental impact will be lessened by repairing the bridge.

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